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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The adaptive model of thermal comfort and energy conservation in the built environment


Current thermal comfort standards and the models underpinning them purport to be equally applicable across all types of building, ventilation, occupancy pattern and climate zone. A recent research project sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE, RP-884) critically evaluated these assumptions by statistically analysing a large database of research results in building comfort studies from all over the world (n=22,346). The results reported in this paper indicated a clear dependence of indoor comfort temperatures on outdoor air temperatures (instead of outdoor effective temperature ET* used in RP-884), especially in buildings that were free-running or naturally ventilated. These findings encourage significant revisions of ASHRAE’s comfort standard in terms of climatically relevant prescriptions. The paper highlights the potential for reduced cooling energy requirements by designing for natural or hybrid ventilation in many moderate climate zones of the world.

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